Legal Updates

Intellectual Property Law – National Consumer Council – Format Shifting – IP Law Reform

A recent report relating to new consumer rights in copying creative works at home has stated that the law relating to such activities will have to be fair and workable in the future. The National Consumer Council (“NCC”) cautiously welcomed such a reform of intellectual property law.

The NCC commented on plans to take forward the Gowers Review, which makes a number of proposals for reform on laws relating to intellectual property. The NCC agrees with the earmarking of number of aspects of UK copyright law for reform. However, the NCC has argued that the plans to update the “format shifting” rules must translate into new provisions that are:

  • Fair to consumers;
  • Easily understood; and
  • Future proof.

The “format shifting” rules make it legal for consumers to copy creative works such as music, films, photos and broadcasts for private use. A commentator at the NCC stated:

“The problem with current copyright rules is that consumers don't understand them and they are out of step with modern life. Copying music and films, say, from one piece of equipment to another for your own private use at home or in the car, is currently illegal - even though advances in technology make it possible”.

This concept is both confusing for consumers and brings the law into disrepute. These are cited as the main two reasons that the NCC supports moves to update this discredited law. However, new measures to allow “format shifting” for private use must not fall into the same trap. Any such law must be workable.

“That means they must be simple and easy to understand, they must be fair to consumers about what they can do in their own homes and they must be flexible enough to deal with future advances in technology. Copyright law is complicated and the devil will be in the detail. NCC will be combing through the proposals to ensure that the final reforms meet our workability tests”.
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© RT COOPERS, 2008. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.


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